No, Saudi Arabia didn’t ban 47 games in a single day, and that’s just the start of the false reporting

I like to give Australians a bit of crap over how miserably their government approaches mature-themed video games, but truth be told, Australia has nothing on the over-the-top nonsense that comes out of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

This week, several Western news outlets reported that the Saudi Arabian government had added 47 games to the list of those banned in the Kingdom. These reports also insinuated that the decision to ban the games was made in response to the deaths of two Saudi teens who committed suicide playing the online game the Blue Whale Challenge. The problem is, it looks like these stories are all full of crap.

These origin of the false reports appears to be the Associated Press, who erroneously conflated a controversy surrounding the two suicides with a list of games banned in Saudi Arabia as of July, 2018. The AP’s story was then spread across the Internet by other sites including IGN, PC Gamer, The Hollywood Reporter, Screen Rant, Game Rant, Neowin, Game Industry, and others. While some of these outlets have since removed their stories, at the time of this writing, the AP had not. It’s also unclear whether any of these news outlets attempted to reach out to Saudi game developers or government sources to clarify the reports.

associated press-ap-saudi arabia-banned-games-list-false-the splintering

The 47 games listed were all banned previously by the Saudi Media and Audiovisual Authority, and their banning had nothing to do with violence or suicide. They’re banned for sexual content. Why else would a game like Life Is Strange be on the list? Even more questionable is why would the AP conflate the recent teen suicides with the list in the first place? Either the Associated Press was misinformed by a source in the Kingdom, or the journalist writing the story – at least ostensibly – just decided that it must be true.

The Middle East marketing officer at Ubisoft, Malik Tafahah, has issued several statements via social media pleading for the AP and other news sites to remove the stories and issue corrections. At least so far, he doesn’t appear to be making much headway.

associated press-ap-saudi arabia-banned-games-list-false-the splintering-ubisoft-malik tafahah

I like making fun of moral authoritarians as much as the next freedom-loving American, but it looks pretty clear that the media found a story that they rather liked, one that again falsely links video games to violence, and ran with it as quickly and loudly as they could. I personally was ready to run with it too, but the lack of any reference to suicide on the official Media and Audiovisual Authority site tipped me off that something was amiss.

To be honest, there really is no excuse for the gaming journalism websites to have propagated this story like they did. Most of the games on the list are older (Assassin’s Creed II, God of War, Dante’s Inferno), and most have little to do with suicide. How did they miss this?

Stories like this one are a reminder that false reports – particularly those that tie into a pre-existing agenda or narrative -can spin out of control before anyone cares to do their due diligence. Good luck getting those corrections, Malik, particularly from the likes of IGN.

Below is a list of the 47 games in question.

  1. Agents of Mayhem
  2. Assassins Creed 2
  3. Attack on titan 2
  4. Bayonetta 2
  5. Clash of the Titans
  6. Dante’s Inferno
  7. Dead Rising 3 Apocalypse Edition
  8. Deadpool
  9. Deception IV : The Nightmare Princess
  10. Deus Ex Mankind Divided
  11. Devil’s Third
  12. DmC – Definitive edition
  13. Dragon Age: Inquisition
  14. Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen
  15. Drawn to Death
  16. Dissidia Final Fantasy NT
  17. Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2
  18. God of War 1
  19. God of War 2
  20. God of War 3
  21. Grand Theft Auto V
  22. Heavy Rain
  23. Hitman: Absolution (2012)
  24. Life is Strange
  25. Mafia 2
  26. Mafia 3
  27. Metro Redux
  28. Okami
  29. One Piece Burning Blood
  30. Past Cure
  31. Prison Architect
  32. Resident Evil 5
  33. Resident Evil 6
  34. Saints Row IV
  35. Splatterhouse
  36. Street Fighter V
  37. Street Fighter 30th Anniversary
  38. The Order 1886
  39. The Saboteur
  40. The Witcher 3
  41. The Nonary Game
  42. Thief
  43. Vampyr
  44. Watch Dogs
  45. Wolfenstein 2
  46. Wolfenstein: The New Order
  47. YO-KAI WATCH

Hey! I heard that Saudi women can play Daytona USA now. Good on you, ladies!

Source: Saudi Gamer

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